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Report: Rockets have trade taker for Clint Capela, will make deal only if getting Jimmy Butler

Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 13: Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets plays the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

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The Rockets have apparently progressed in their attempt to sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

All that’s left for Houston to do:

  • Find a trade partner for Eric Gordon or P.J. Tucker
  • Convince Butler to come
  • Convince the 76ers to sign-and-trade Butler
  • Build a supporting cast while hard-capped

Easy, right? Ha.

The only step of that plan that actually looks easy is moving Tucker. Plenty of teams should want the versatile big man. But he’s so important to the Rockets’ defense and ability to play small. Losing him would undermine the team, even if Butler is coming.

Likewise, Clint Capela and Gordon would be significant losses. Acquiring a player in a sign-and-trade would hard-cap Houston, which would have max contracts for Butler, James Harden and Chris Paul on the books. It’s far from assured that top-heavy team would be better than the status-quo Rockets.

Oh, and are we sure Butler wants to join Houston? Will Philadelphia really enable it? The 76ers would need to get a ton in the sign-and-trade and/or believe Butler’s second choice is a team with enough cap space to sign him outright.

Presumably, the Rockets would get positive assets for Capela, a 25-year-old center who’s on a reasonable contract. Those assets could be flipped to Philadelphia as enticement.

But so many complicated steps remain to making Butler-to-Houston a reality. Though there’s a chance, the expectation should remain it won’t happen.

If it doesn’t, how will Capela feel about being dangled like this? The Rockets already face chemistry issues.

There’s major upside to acquiring Butler. But not only are there downsides to landing him, there are downsides in the mere pursuit.